I spent part of last week with some service managers and fixed ops directors in Phoenix and listened as they shared the innovations and best practices they've instituted in their stores' service lanes. As we talked inside the hotel conference room, the world outside was quickly changing because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Customer Service Index study released last week was a precursor of what dealership service operations will face if parts shortages from China and other regions negatively impact the speed in which customers' cars can be repaired.
But since then, the issues confronting service managers have certainly accelerated and become more complicated as some dealerships have shuttered completely or at least closed sales departments, leaving — for now — its service lanes open. I checked in with those I met in Phoenix to see how things were going at their stores.
Most reported a spike in canceled service appointments, and they've stepped up cleaning efforts, instituted stricter health regulations for employees and enforced other actions such as "No-handshake zones."
Francisco Mora, service manager at Esserman International Volkswagen in Doral, Fla., said he's talked to peers at nearby dealerships and that "everyone is being optimistic and remaining open."
Among the measures taken at Esserman is sending home any employee who isn't feeling well and not allowing them to return without a doctor's note.
Mora perhaps summed up everyone's sentiments in the fixed ops world as it relates to the uncharted waters this pandemic poses: "We are unsure how long we will keep this up as things continue to progress," he said, "but we will continue as long as possible."